Who Do You Think You’re Talking To?

I know technically that should be, “To whom are you speaking?”  But this post isn’t about grammar, it’s about audience, which I was sidetracked from last time.  The presence of my childhood books overwhelmed the topic I assigned myself.  Today I guess I’ll speak mainly from the head rather than the heart.  Both are good.

Quite awhile ago I heard some advice worth remembering.  It was from a college professor or guest speaker he’d asked to class.  I’m sorry I don’t remember the source.  He said, “Never underestimate a person’s intelligence, or overestimate his memory.”


I agree that to be successful, an author must have a target audience in age and genre.  Adults who like romance novels, or maybe biography.  Intermediate aged children who lean toward  mystery and fantasy.  Preschoolers who love to look at pictures.   That’s great.  I happen to be under the radar of biography writers.  I tend to read life stories to find out new details of what went on in the past (to the best of our knowledge).  Biographies make history human, and through them you understand a little bit better why things happened.

But you know, you can’t really tell who’s going to read what you’re writing.  I was on a panel for Young Adult books recently, and an author (a very good one) who writes for teens said he’d heard from two 78 year-old-ladies who read his book on the beach.  I think parents who read books aloud to their children should be included in a writer’s prospective audience, too, because they, as well as the young ones, are impacted.  Have you ever discovered a great book that was written since your childhood?  I have, and keep checking the Newbery list each year.

Of course, my six-year-old granddaughter wouldn’t understand War and Peace.  There are words and themes appropriate to adult experiences.

We should not underestimate kids’ intelligence, though.  Teaching for 25 years made that clear to me: they understand quite a bit.  And books for kids?  They can be enjoyed and appreciated and applauded by everyone for their simple focus.  About 400 parents and children who stood in line to speak with author/illustrator Jan Brett at our public library recently proved that.

TR said that a children’s book was not good unless an adult could get something out of it, too.

When you write, have a purpose, an audience, and a topic.   And don’t be surprised if your radar reaches further than you planned.

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